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The purpose of sex trafficking laws, and the effective implementation of such laws must include: Prosecution, Protection, Prevention, Provision of Services and Partnerships

Drafters should ensure that sex trafficking laws include provisions related to the role of prosecution, protection, prevention, provision of services and partnerships. The sex trafficking law itself may lay out the broad principles and standards, while implementing legislation or regulations may set forth the more specific actions required. 

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children clearly declares that “effective action to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, especially women and children, requires a comprehensive international approach in the countries of origin, transit, and destination that includes measures to prevent such trafficking, to punish the traffickers and to protect the victims of such trafficking, including by protecting their internationally recognized human rights.” (See: UN Trafficking Protocol Preamble)

The purposes of prevention, prosecution and protection are also clearly delineated in the Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking in Human Beings and the UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons.  The purposes of partnership or coordination are also frequently mentioned as critical to the success of anti-trafficking efforts.

Professor and Executive Director of The Protection Project, Mohamed Mattar discusses the importance of harmonization in the legislative scheme to address human trafficking.  He writes, “In addition to the legislative movement relating to anti-trafficking laws specifically, there has also been a corresponding movement to harmonize immigration laws, labor laws, health laws, child protection laws, and other relevant legislation so as to cover the various phenomena linked to trafficking and thus ensure a comprehensive framework for addressing the phenomenon. Such legislative harmonization can serve to strengthen the response to a crime, especially one as complex as trafficking in persons, and one so interconnected with other crimes, including drug trafficking, arms trafficking, alien smuggling, money laundering, child sex tourism and child pornography, document fraud, and others.” (See U.N. Expert Paper by Mohamed Mattar, p19)

For more information on a Coordinated Community Response, please see the sections on Task Forces and Inter-Agency Cooperation.

Prosecution of Perpetrators of Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking laws should clearly state that one purpose of the law is to “ensure effective investigation and prosecution; to promote international cooperation on action against trafficking in human beings.” (See Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking in Human Beings, Chap.1, Art.1; UN Trafficking Protocol, Art.2; UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons, Art.3) Effective prosecution deters sex trafficking particularly when convictions result in appropriate and serious punishment, when governments prioritize the prosecution of trafficking offences, and when victims are protected rather than punished. (See: State Model Law on Protection for Victims of Human Trafficking, Division A, Section I(b)(6), 2005) (See also the section on Criminal Provisions)

Anti-trafficking Training Material for Judges and prosecutors in EU Member States and Accession and Candidate Countries, Vienna, Austria: International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), 2006. Available in English.

Protection of Sex Trafficking Victims (See also Victim and Witness Protection and Assistance , Civil Remedies, and Immigration Provisions)

Drafters should clearly set forth the purpose of protection of sex trafficking victims through assistance as well as “full respect for their human rights.” The duty to protect trafficked individuals arises specifically from the Trafficking and Children’s Protocols, as well as from fundamental human rights conventions, rules of opinion juris and customary international law. The failure to protect trafficked individuals violates numerous individual human rights: the right to life, liberty and security of person; the right to be free from slavery and slavery-like practices; the right to be free from torture; the right to equal protection under the law; and the right to an effective remedy.

Similarly, the Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking in Human Beings has as one of its primary purposes “To protect the human rights of the victims of trafficking, design a comprehensive framework for the protection and assistance of victims and witnesses, while guaranteeing gender equality, as well as to ensure effective investigation and prosecution” while “considering that respect for victims’ rights, protection of victims and action to combat trafficking in human beings must be the paramount objectives…” (See Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking in Human Beings, Preamble and Chap. 1, Art. 1; UN Trafficking Protocol, Art. 2; UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons, Art. 3; U.N. Expert Paper by Mohamed Mattar, p19)

Provision of Services (See also Benefits and Services, Victim and Witness Protection and Assistance, Civil Remedies and Immigration Provisions)

Originally enveloped in the model of protection, Provision of Services is now recognized as a separate element to better prioritize and address the unique needs of sex trafficking victims. 

Drafters should include specific information on the provision of services available to victims of sex trafficking. Services may include housing, counseling, medical and psychological assistance, information of legal rights, employment and educational training. All services should take into account the specific needs of the victim. (See: Reporting on the Status of Trafficking in Women in Accordance with Article 6 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Guidelines on the Interpretation of the Text of Article 6 of the Convention, The Protection Project

Services offered to victims should incorporate trauma informed services, prioritizing psychological safety as well as physical safety.

Drafters should be sure to include victims of trafficking in any definition of victim of violence, or a similarly defined category, that may impact the services or benefits that can be afforded to a victim.

Drafters should ensure that services are provided to all victims of trafficking and are not contingent on a victim’s immigration status. (For more information see the section on Immigration Provisions.)

Leslye Orloff and Rachel Little, “Improving Accessibility of Your Program’s Services to Immigrant Women,” Revolution Volume 4, 2011, p. 5. Available in English.


Prevention of Sex Trafficking (See also Administrative And Regulatory Provisions)

Drafters should clearly identify prevention as a primary purpose of the sex trafficking law. The prevention of sex trafficking must include a variety of measures such as national and local anti-trafficking task forces and coordinating bodies; national and local monitoring and reporting mechanisms or bodies; professional training programs for those enforcing anti-trafficking laws; measures to decrease the demand; and public awareness-raising campaigns designed specifically for both adults and children. (See: UN Trafficking Protocol, Chap. 1, Art.2 and Chap. 2; UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons, Art.3; Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking in Human Beings, Chap. 1, Art.1)

Legislation should include measures to address the demand for commercial sexual exploitation and incorporate activities to decrease the demand into all prevention measures.

Partnerships (See also Task Forces and Inter-Agency Cooperation)

Finally, drafters should point out the vital partnerships that must be created and maintained in order to effectively combat sex trafficking. In fact, experts in the field of human trafficking emphasize the need to work in partnership or in a coordinated international, national and local response to effectively combat sex trafficking. Law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, service providers and the public must work together to use the full extent of the community's legal system to protect victims, hold perpetrators accountable, and enforce the community's intolerance of the sale of human beings for sex. Coordinated community response programs should engage the entire community in efforts to change the social norms and attitudes that contribute to sex trafficking. (See: Coordinated Community Response, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights; Letter from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the U.S. State Department 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report; UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons, Art. 3) (For more information, see the section on Inter-Agency Cooperation.)

Professor Mattar discusses the idea of coordinated community response by addressing participation and harmonization as critical elements to address trafficking.  He writes:

“Civil society organizations are critical partners particularly in prevention and protection efforts, but can also be key in assisting the government in the area of prosecution, starting with their role in the identification of victims of trafficking, support and care for victims of trafficking throughout court proceedings, including the provision of legal assistance, medical and psychological aid, as well as in contributing to a dignified process of repatriation (if such is desired by the victim) and reintegration, or the process of integration into society if a residency status is granted. Prior to the UN Protocol, a role for civil society was rarely legislated for in domestic laws given that most tended to either lump victims of trafficking into a category of criminals, persons not entitled to the benefits victims are entitled to, or simply to amend the criminal code to criminalize the crime of trafficking, without providing for any prevention, protection, or participation mechanisms at all.” 

(See:  U.N. Expert Paper by Mohamed Mattar, p.19.)

Module 6 of the UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners (2009) discusses different forms of international and cross-jurisdictional cooperation and gives examples of successful efforts.

See: UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners (2009), Module 6, available in English.

See: OSCE, Trafficking in Human Beings: Identification of Potential and Presumed Victims, A Community Policing Approach (2011), available in English